Weeks after the record breaking devastating hurricanes Irma and Maria, cut through the Caribbean leaving their indelible mark of destruction, the fortunate inhabitants of islands that escaped the tempests will continue feel their impact in other ways well into next year.
What Number is Portability and What it Means to You
Number Portability, is the ability to change your telephone service provider while keeping your telephone number. Consumers of the ECTEL member states have called for it long and hard and been promised it for many years. However, the project has been hit by one delay after another.
I spoke to Acting General Manager at ECTEL Mr. Andrew Millet to find out more. I began by reminding him that in November 2016, his predecessor suggested Number Portability should be in place by the first quarter of this year. We are some way past that and asked what he can tell us.
Progress Has Been Made
"Since you spoke to Mr. Charles, we have made some progress. We have selected the number portability clearing house, and that's a company called Teletech, of Slovenia." Said Mr. Millet. "There has been a lot of progress by the services providers, and that's in all member territories.", he continued.
NP Delayed by Hurricanes
"Hurricanes Irma and Maria have brought some delays to this, because many of the providers have regional networks that have sustained some damage in the some of the islands. We know Dominica suffered very badly, but there was also damage in the British Virgin Islands, and we're assessing the extent of the damage. As well as determining how long it will take to recover."
Mr. Millet went onto say,
"We were aiming to have Number Portability in place by March or April 2018. However, we will have to review that date in light of the damage and come back to the public with an update at a later time."
While a firm commitment in terms of a likely implementation date wasn't forthcoming, Mr. Millet did agree that Number Portability would likely be implemented in the latter part of the year.
After the Storms, it's Microgrid Season in the Caribbean
Seven weeks after Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, more than half the island was still without electricity, according to the U.S. Energy Department. Nearly two-thirds of utility customers on the island of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands were still in the dark, while more than 87% of customers on the island of St. Croix and 70% of customers on St. John remained without power.
Smaller islands such as St. Eustatius, emerged from the storms with their solar-power systems intact. The almost 4,000 inhabitants of the 25-square-mile island, has 4 megawatts of solar panels, 5.3 megawatt-hours of battery storage. Thanks to new equipment and construction techniques that resist hurricane-force winds, smart inverters and batteries that can store several hours' worth of electricity. Microgrid technologies, such as smart sensors, energy management software and devices that disconnect, or "island," a power generator and battery from the larger grid, create a stand-alone power supply that keeps operating in the event of a blackout.
Fred Cuvalay Chief Executive of the government-owned Statia Utility Company said Solar panels and battery storage can be critical to keeping important public resources such as water pumping and wastewater treatment systems operating. The solar panels generate enough electricity during the day to power the island and charge the lithium-ion batteries. When the sun starts setting in the late afternoon, the batteries discharge electricity until about 7 p.m., when the diesel power plant switches on.
The decision to install solar panels and a microgrid, and cut usage of diesel generators, was part of a financial overhaul of the utility, which had been losing $2 million a year, Cuvalay said. The solar panels and microgrid equipment were installed in phases, starting in 2015 and completed last month. The system works better than expected and has made the island's grid more reliable than it was before, he said, adding that prices have dropped considerably between 2014, when the utility first started on its microgrid project, and this year.
App Lets Dominicans give Anti-Narcotics Tips Anonymously
In Santo Domingo, Anti-narcotics (DNCD) President, Edmundo Felix, announced on Tuesday the availability of the mobile app called Sociedad Empoderada Reporta (SER) (Empowered Society Reports), to anonymously tip off authorities.
The smartphone app features reporting, through images, videos, audio or text, the location of points where drugs are sold, or activities linked to prohibited substances, complaints which the DNCD will then validate and investigate.
He said the whistleblower's identity will be completely anonymous, so much so that the device or their ID is untraceable even by the DNCD.
Felix said the app forms part of the Digital Republic programme, which can be downloaded from Play Store for Android systems, and in Apple Store for iOS devices, searched with the tag DNCD.
The Scientific Research Council (SRC) is close to finalizing phase one of a $9M JMD agriculture project at Carron Hall High School in St. Mary that will significantly benefit students as well as residents of the surrounding communities.
The initiative, which will establish a bio-digester system and a pig farm, is expected to assist enhance the school's science syllabus while providing additional revenue inflow options for the institution.
Amanda McKenzie, Coordinator for the SRC's Science and Technology Unit, told JIS News that the undertaking is consistent with the agency's mandate, adding that "the Council believes that science and technology should work for everyone...at the school level...the community level and the nation at large."
McKenzie explained that the pig farm, would enable the school to sell the meat to the wider community, and have an environmentally-friendly waste treatment system.
Additionally, the bio-digester system will convert waste to fertilizer, which Miss McKenzie said can be used on the school's farm. She went on to say that bio-gas generated can be used to fuel the canteen as well as potentially power the wider campus, while the other significant by-product, water, can be used to irrigate the school's farm.
Miss McKenzie pointed out that the bio-digester can be used as a demonstrative model to illustrate how science and technology can be optimally utilised to produce clean energy and enhance knowledge of animal husbandry.
Stronger Laws Coming To Tackle Cyber Crime In Barbados
Barbados' top judicial officer has warned about a growing class of sophisticated criminals in Barbados who is not only heavily armed but shoring up crimes with technology.
Chief Justice Sir Marston Gibson further cautioned that law enforcers and the judiciary had to keep one step ahead of criminals who were more organised and technologically savvy.
Insisting there was organised crime in Barbados, Sir Marston told participants in a conference and workshop hosted by the Department of Public Prosecutions in Christ Church this week, the country was no longer dealing with "your run of the mill criminal".
In fact, Sir Marston said today's offender was "organised, and he certainly is going to be acting in concert with other people". The top level judicial officer noted that apart from guns, criminals were frequently using computers to carry out their nefarious acts.
"You are looking at criminals who, for example, have, and I am just telling you based on an application that was made to me recently . . . who [have] two AK-47s, endless amounts of ammunition, [and] money deposited in the bank," he said.
Also addressing the workshop was, Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite who said when Barbados joined Caribbean Community states in adopting a crime security agenda in 2013, cybercrime and transnationally organised crime were not top tier threats to Barbados but he said they had since become significant areas of concern.
He said revisions were coming to the Computer Misuse Act, the Electronics Transfer Act, Telecommunications Act and the Copyright Act.
Brathwaite also told participants in the three-day workshop titled Strengthening our Capacity to Combat Cybercrime and Other Organised Crimes that the long-mooted Forfeiture of Civil Assets legislation would go before Parliament by the end of November, as another weapon in fighting organised transnational crime.
Jamaican Court Clears Path For Rate Cuts, But FLOW Continues To Fight
Termination rate cuts for fixed line phone calls are now to be implemented over a four-month period starting December 1st, this year as the Supreme Court gives the green light to the Office of Utilities Regulation, OUR, to proceed with its decision made on June 7th this year.
On October 31st, the Supreme Court delivered its judgement denying both of Cable & Wireless Jamaica's applications for leave to apply for judicial review of the OUR's decision and an interim injunction barring the regulator from implementing the rate cuts until the court adjudicated on the matter. The telecoms company trades as Flow Jamaica.
The telecoms provider objected to the six-month glide path and had been asking the OUR to extend the period to at least two years. It is not ready to give up the fight.
"Cable & Wireless is continuing its appeal before the Telecommunications Appeals Tribunal with respect to the fixed termination rates glide path," Flow's Director of Corporate Communications and Stakeholder Management, Kayon Wallace told Gleaner Business.
Asked if the telecommunications provider, which trades as Flow Jamaica, will be appealing the Court ruling, Wallace said that "as regards the Court of Appeal, Cable & Wireless is still considering its options."
The OUR has determined that termination charges for phone calls that connect to the fixed-line network are to be reduced by 70 to 90 per cent, which would lead to cheaper phone calls for subscribers.
Twitter hasn't said who exactly is in the test group for its longer tweets, but now we know one user who isn't: Donald Trump.
On Tuesday, Twitter (TWTR, Tech30) announced it would test doubling the character limit of tweets as part of an ongoing effort to make the social network more intuitive and appealing.
The announcement quickly set off speculation and alarm bells among some users who worried what President Trump, a prolific tweeter, might do with all the extra space.
In response, Twitter cofounder Biz Stone said President Trump is "not in the test group" for the expanded tweets.
Those of you who are familiar with the successful Terminator series of films staring Arnold Schwarzenegger, would recognise the quote "Old but not obsolete". It comes from the last Terminator Genisys film, staring an ageing Schwarzenegger who would often remind a youthful John Connor that "I'm old but not obsolete".
That is a message that the St. Kitts-Nevis-Anguilla Amateur Radio Society has embraced whole heartedly. In our interview with their President Basil Woods, he detailed their efforts to recruit young people with an interest in getting involved in amateur radio.
Woods said, every year on our anniversary in April we go into the schools and give presentations on amateur radio. However, next year we're planning to do a bit more as we don't think once a year is that effective.
He stated that HAM radio is now getting some competition from the more immediate and modern forms of communication, such as WhatsApp.
"One of the difficulties we have is that we have to make sure that they understand amateur radio. With all the technology around such as WhatsApp and so on, sometimes fellas don't to sit down in front of a radio to send a message. Most people like to use their fingers now so that's a challenge.
"In amateur radio now we have applications such as Paco or Packet, where you can use the computer to send text messages. We have that system that we're putting into place right now."
Jamaica Can Be Silicon Valley of the Caribbean
Jamaica has the potential to be the Silicon Valley of the Caribbean, with a knowledge, tech-savvy generation at its core to drive economic and industrial development, noted University of Technology (UTech) student, Orande Harris.
"My hope is for Jamaica to develop into a real serious type of Silicon Valley of sorts. We could be dubbed the Silicon Island. So by going to China and observing all they have to offer, I am hoping that I can understand what it takes to make the ICT (information and communications technology) industry in Jamaica a very productive one to improve the lives of the people," Harris said.
He is among a group of six Jamaican university students short listed from from the University of the West Indies (UWI), for Huawei's Seeds for the Future Programme.
The students left on Monday for China, where they will participate in a two-week work and cross-cultural trip facilitated by Huawei, one of the world's leading global information and ICT solutions providers.
"Huawei launched the programme to nurture professionals who are urgently needed to drive the development of the ICT industry in countries where we operate," explained Logan Shi, the company's country manager in Jamaica. He said the company was looking to close the gap between knowledge learned in the classroom and the skills required by the industry, while enhancing knowledge transfer.
The Seeds for the Future programme, which has benefited more than 20,000 students in 96 countries, is being launched in Jamaica and Guyana this year, with Trinidad and Tobago and Panama the two other Caribbean territories where it has already been implemented.
Caribbean and Japanese Youth Confront Climate Issues
More than 600 Caribbean and Japanese youth have put forward their recommendations for climate-smart actions for the region following intense dialogue in October at the third Youth Climate Change Conference in Jamaica.
The recommendations from the two-day event themed "Our Climate, Our Voice, Our Change – Advancing Partnerships for Global Impact". Those include: incentivising programmes to promote youth interest and involvement, particularly through educational opportunities; youth involvement in ongoing respective country research as required by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
"It is conferences like this one that equip young people with the facts they need to champion the cause of combating climate change," said Shanielle Allen, a member of the Jamaica delegation, in her reflection of the proceedings.
"After both days, I left empowered and inspired to be a part of the change the world needs to see. I believe I speak on behalf of all youth delegates when I say it was a fulfilling experience and we are now ready to vehemently put forth our proposals to our governments and Heads of State."
The conference was a joint initiative between the USAID-funded Jamaica Rural Economy and Ecosystems Adapting to Climate Change II (Ja REEACH II) Project, the United Nations Development Programme's (UNDP) Japan-Caribbean Climate Change Partnership (J-CCCP) Project and the Government of Jamaica.
Hurricanes Irma & Maria passed over the Caribbean devastating many of the islands with winds in excess of 140 mph, heavy rain and extreme flooding. After the storms moved on, the islands were left to face the "apocalyptic devastation" without electricity.
Now, many of the region's renewable energy advocates will rightly begin calling for investment in renewable energy and distributed grids to avoid the same situation in the future. As well as looking for guidance from the newly established Caribbean Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency in Barbados.
"The tragedy of Hurricane Irma can be a catalyst for government, utility leaders and people of affected countries to transform destruction into opportunity, an opportunity to build back better and cleaner through sustainable, resilient power and transportation systems," wrote analysts at the Rocky Mountain Institute.
Indeed, the opportunity for standalone solar and storage -- or hybrid liquefied natural gas (LNG) and diesel systems paired with PV and storage -- is getting more economically attractive. According to a new analysis of island markets from GTM Research & Wood Mackenzie, hybrid systems are cheaper than diesel, and nearing the cost of LNG.
Guyana Moving To Establish Regulatory Unit For Operating Drones
The Guyana Civil Aviation Authority, (GCAA) is moving to establish a regulatory unit for the operations of drones, across the country. Drones or Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), are commonly used to capture pictures and videos – among other things - without the use of a human pilot aboard. The device is operated through the use of a ground-based controller.
Speaking at a press conference, Director General of the GCAA, Rtd Colonel Egbert Field disclosed that the Authority has commenced work to develop the unit. The Unit is expected to deal with the registration, approval and certification of persons, who own and operate drones in Guyana
At present, Field explained that the GCAA is working on building the manpower capability of the Unit. Colonel Field specified that the Authority has been working to secure inspectors for the Unit since the staff are integral to assist in monitoring the operations of all types of drones.
In addition, the GCAA Head noted that guidelines will be developed to manage the
operations of drones. "Any drone that comes into Guyana will have to be registered with us and therefore we will have to have guidelines for operators to have a clearer cut directive to follow as it relates to flying and operating drones within the local air space."
Colonel Field also noted, that efforts have been ongoing to secure finances for the Unit. At present, the establishment of the Drone Unit has been an integral part of Budget talks for next year.
Horace Clarke High And Bull Bay All-Age Win Jamaican SRC Science Competition
Horace Clarke High in St. Mary and Bull Bay All-Age Primary School in St. Thomas were victorious in the Scientific Research Council's (SRC) Improving Innovation Capacities in the Caribbean (INVOCAB) Science and Technology Innovation competition.
At the awards ceremony held at Bull Bay All-Age, the school was presented with the SRC trophy and a tablet. Principal Justin Duncan credited the victory to the hard work and determination of the students and staff.
He stated that the team spent long hours perfecting the solar water-heating device that won them the competition. "We did it as a team. Myself, the teachers and the students, we came up with the idea. I designed it and we walked through the steps to make the project work. It was not easy, but the students were committed to the task," he said.
Mr. Duncan was grateful that his school got the opportunity to participate in the competition, noting that what they have learnt "will certainly help the students in their examinations". He noted that the subject of science is important, because of its presence in everyday life.
Meanwhile, Horace Clarke High School, was presented with thier SRC trophy, won for their design of a waste-water and solid-waste management system. "It's an agronomic hybrid system used to address solid-waste management," explained Principal Christopher Walker.
"It also harvests rainwater. The device also helps in the making of fertilisers and methane gas," he added. Mr. Walker said that winning the competition has served as motivation for the students and teachers.
"It gives us something to brag about. We were struggling with the sciences, but we have seen some improvements in the teaching methodologies and the students' performance," he said.
Junior Expert for the INVOCAB Project, SRC, Yanique Wallace, told JIS News that the annual competition targets low-performing schools in the sciences in the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) and Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC). The objective is to engender innovation in science among students.